(JTA) — Tom Schweich, a Republican candidate for governor of Missouri, apparently killed himself shortly after telling journalists that a fellow party member was leading a whisper campaign saying he was Jewish.
Schweich, the state auditor, who attended an Episcopal church, was pronounced dead at a hospital from a single gunshot after paramedics responded Thursday to an emergency call made from Schweich’s home in a suburb of St. Louis, The Associated Press reported.
Schweich’s death appears to have been a suicide, police chief Kevin Murphy told The New York Times.
Schweich that morning had invited a local journalist and an AP reporter to his home.
“To me, this is more of a religion story than a politics story, but it’s your choice on who the reporter is,” Schweich said on a voice mail he left the local journalist, Tony Messenger of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, seven minutes before the police call, The New York Times reported.
In recent days, Schewich had said that John Hancock, the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, was spreading rumors that Schweich was Jewish. Schweich told Messenger that Hancock was trying to hurt his chances in the primary with evangelical Christian voters.
“I don’t have a specific recollection of having said that,” Hancock told AP on Thursday, “but it’s plausible that I would have told somebody that Tom was Jewish because I thought he was, but I wouldn’t have said it in a derogatory or demeaning fashion.”
Messenger in a column said Schweich was proud of his Jewish roots. Schweich’s Jewish grandfather “taught him to never give an inch where anti-Semitism was concerned, Schweich told me,” he wrote.
Schweich had contacted the Anti-Defamation League about his allegations, the Post-Dispatch reported.